Sunday, September 30, 2012

One Good Cop Dog

To say my expectations were high for 2008's Cop Dog would be an understatement akin to dubbing Clive Owen okay-looking or nachos a mildly enjoyable snack or this picture of bulldog puppies kinda cute.

C'mon: based on the kind of WTF trailer that defies any sense of ‘typical kids film,’ my heart was set on canine thespian Kuma’s title role to change my life.

Let us see if it did.

Quick Plot: Poor Marlowe looks awfully bored sitting in a cage at a K-9 training center, where all his four-legged friends are busy running through hoops and practicing scent trails. Some fancy editing tells us that Marlowe’s human police partner died nearly one year ago and his widow and son Robby are still picking up the pieces.

Not of the dead guy, at least, not literally (though the fact that he died in an explosion does lead me to now wonder). Robby has become moody and weird, leading his mom to consider stashing him away at some form of Cuckoo’s Nest-y juvenile facility. To perk him up, she agrees to adopt Marlowe who would otherwise be put out of his misery/boredom by going to a glue factory.

As a housedog, Marlowe isn’t a champ. He takes a liking to chewing up shoes, running amuck, and chasing the sexy lady dog.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, we know she’s a lady dog because she has pink bows on her ear, which actually has more of a weird schoolgirl porn star feel but what can you do.

Also on Marlowe’s list: catch the bad guys who killed his partner AND stole his Rick Grimes-meets-the-urban-sombrero hat.

As worn by Parker Lewis himself, all grown up with a shaggy Bill Paxton circa Titanic haircut.

Step back, Clive Owen. There's some fierce competition brewing...for my heart.

The bad guys--Parker Lewis and his lackey, a doofus whose sole character trait is that he chews more gum than Violet Beaureguard--are obsessed with unlocking a Lost-like hatch in the backyard of Robby, the same locale where pops saw his gruesome end. Of course, you would suspect that said Lost-like hatch is hiding something super secret and important, and I'm almost positive we do eventually discover what said super secret and important secret is. Except it's now been 18 hours since I've watched Cop Dog and like Guy Pearce in a sports jacket, I can't for the life of me remember what it was.

I think I drink too much.

In one of his typical acts of blatant bad behavior, Marlowe runs away from Robby to chase the loitering bad guys and promptly gets hit by a truck (meta-ly played by the film's director, John Murlowski, he of the vastly different Golden Christmas and Freeway Killer). Despite Robby's cries for WATER!, Marlowe joins his late partner in the heavenly afterlife...or does he?

In the world of Ghost Cats and Karate Dogs, one would think that "Cop Dog" was enough of a title hook to serve as a film's premise. Clearly, one is not familiar with the fanciful machinations of screenwriter Steven Palmer Peterson (he of the spectacular Lifetime original Murder On the 13th Floor, a 'thriller' that manages to obliviously insult career women and the African American race in a rather adorable manner). My completely uninformed understanding of the screenwriting process for Peterson went something like him saying this: "Sure, a COP DOG is neat, but what the kids REALLY want from their cinema is more GHOST COP DOGS. Now hand me another Zima!"

At Marlowe's funeral, his sad lieutenant bestows upon a despondent Robby the dog training whistle his dad used to use on Marlowe. Before you can say, "Oh! Is this a MAGIC whistle that will summon Ghost Cop Dog to aide Robby in the investigation of his dad’s murder," allow me to point out the fact that a dog training whistle might have come in handy a week earlier when THE DOG WAS EATING FURNITURE AND RUNNING IN FRONT OF TRUCKS.

But I digress. Robby soon discovers that it is indeed a magic whistle that will summon Ghost Cop Dog to aide him on his investigation, and the plot kicks in.

Because Robby's best friend's dad is a paranormal investigator with a stable Skype connection, the kids learn that they must solve the mystery of dad's passing within one year of his death or else pops and Ghost Cop Dog will be trapped in a horrible netherworld limbo (that is hopefully nowhere near as painful as the film Netherworld) forever. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid during his summer break, but thems the breaks when Parker Lewis is rocking an urban sombrero.

Thankfully, his pal Deb is willing to do whatever it takes to catch these rascally villains, including participate in the strangest montage yet to grace Animals Doing Human Stuff month. See, after the kids discover one of the bad guys has an annoying--yet convenient--habit of leaving chewed up gum at the scene of the crime, Robby concocts a genius/really gross plan in 5  steps:

1-Collect recent receipts from nearby convenience stores that carry various chewing gum
2-Identify which flavor and brand of chewing gum has been left behind
3-Cross-check the findings with the receipts to identify which store the assailants have been frequenting
4-Hang out at said store until the bad guys come in and purchase the precise chewing gum pattern order
5-Kill them? In truth, the fifth step was foggy.

The real question you're wondering, of course, is how did the kids match the chewing gum to the receipts? The answer is simple:

Montage of two preteens pulling out sticks and spider eggs from days-old discarded gum to identify its flavor.

Maybe that's why my macaroni 'n cheese dinner wasn't as tasty as I expected it to be.

Much like Patrick Swayze after his tutorial with Vincent Schiavelli, Marlowe can occasionally harness some corporeal powers to attack the bad guys or, as revealed in the greatest coda of all time, impregnate a porn star terrier mix. In other words, it all ends happy with Robby NOT going to the juvenile crazy house and Marlowe spreading his seed to give us more ghost cop dogs for eras to come.

High Points

Low Points
Aside from one of them being Parker Lewis, the villains in Cop Dog offer nary a note of being interesting. Perhaps my standards were raised to unreasonable heights following Craig Ferguson’s glorious turn in Lenny the Wonder Dog, but I don’t even remember what the bad guys actually wanted (other than gum)

Lessons Learned
Guys are handsome, not pretty

Sometimes people LEAVE and they DON’T come back

Contrary to popular belief, giving a dog that just got hit by a car water will not bring him back to life

After you have a nervous breakdown, you can see the world more clearly

Standard Animals Doing Human Stuff Trope Tally
New Kid In Town: X
Recent Dead or Divorced Parent: Check OBVIOUSLY
Montage: Check. And gag.
New Friendship: Check
Potentially Inappropriate ‘Friendship’ Between Child & Unrelated Adult (Human): X. 
Evil Corporate Enemy: X. Parker Lewis answers to no one.

Original Song: I wish.
Bully Comeuppance: X
Small Town Values: X
Back To Nature Moral: X. 

Overall Score: 3/10. But it has Kuma, so let’s adjust to 30,000,000,000,000,000,007/10 for more accuracy.

In Conclusion...
I'd like to thank all of you that hung around for this Animals Doing Human Stuff month, especially those rock stars who contributed their own reviews. I imagine most of my readers generally come here to learn about homicidal dolls and killer refrigerators, so I apologize if these past 30 days didn't quite satisfy your bloodlust. With a few years of blogging under my collar, I wanted to experiment a little more with some new types of cinema and as you can probably tell, the only things I enjoy nearly as much as horror is are good old fashioned terrible movies or, on the flip side, bizarrely misdirected gems that don't understand their audience. The ADHS genre is bursting with such treasures, some of which we got to ravage like a cat from outer space at an orgy, others that left us wanting, well, wanting more ghost cat. Ultimately, we had our montages, troubled kids, divorced/dead parents, bully comeuppances, and in a few glimmering moments, original songs that could possibly bring about world peace or destroy the music industry once and for all. It's a gamble really.

October begins tomorrow, and with that will come a full month exclusively devoted to the horror cinema you've come to expect from a blog know...horror movies. So long as I keep that balance of candy corn and pumpkin beer at a manageable level, expect much.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This Swap Has Been Brought To You By Capri Sun. Capri Sun: Good, and Good FOR You

If there’s one thing Animals Doing Human Stuff needs, it’s the return of the occasionally monthly Lighting Bug/Doll’s House Swapparoo!

That’s right: the one and only T.L. Bugg and I are Netflix Instanting it up like the dogs we love so. Head over to the Lair to learn whether my pick, Hercules Saves Christmas as adorable as its cover art suggests.

…after you learn whether his pick, Lenny the Wonder Dog—starring Andy Richter, Craig Ferguson, Kathy Kinney, Joe Morton, maybe-Brazilian pop star Angie, and the young Sammy Kahn the lead role of, whaddya know? A kid named Zach—could possibly be as wondrous as my expectations.

Spoiler alert: it’s even better.

Quick Plot: Lenny (voiced by Conan sidekick Richter) is a scraggly mutt whose genius scientist owner Dr. Island (Terminator 2’s Joe Morton) is close to completing a potentially huge microchip that will automatically train dogs. Despite already having vast amounts of wealth, Island’s nemesis Dr. Wagner (a gleefully over the top Ferguson) sends a pair of henchmen to steal Island’s research. Before you can ask look who’s talking now? Island injects the chip into Lenny, who then runs away and finds safety with a lonely sixth grader named Zach.

Dr. Island, meanwhile, ends up in a coma. But don’t worry kids! He’ll reappear as a cardboard cutout at the film’s climax.

No. Seriously.

Island’s microchip is something special. Before long, Lenny is able to scan people’s basic information just by looking at them in a very (and very appropriate) Terminator style. This is particularly useful in determining who his new owner should be, i.e., not a vegetarian. 

Oh yeah. And now, he can talk.

Less creepy than Karate Dog (but still weirdly unnerving), Lenny and Zach soon learn that Dr. Island is in the aforementioned coma, Dr. Wagner’s evil but inefficient henchmen are on their tails, and the only people that can help are Zach’s redheaded crush, a random Asian martial artist, and Michael “The Guy Who Makes Funny Noises From Police Academy” Winslow’s frustrated beat cop. 

Don’t worry: although he cowrote the script, presumably to show the world that he is more than just The Guy Who Makes Funny Noises From Police Academy, Michael Winslow still makes funny noises.

Now that we’ve established that, Lenny the Wonder Dog is easily one of the more bizarre films I’ve discovered this month, and boy is that a good thing. From the lisping spit-curl wearing henchman to his too-big-to-fill-the-shot twin brother and copious Capri Sun product placement, the movie is overflowing with weird touches. Observe some more:

-A school assembly scene involves a corner shot of someone translating the principal’s speech in sign language, and no: that never comes back and even more no: she doesn’t translate Michael Winslow’s wacky noises
-Kathy Kinney’s recurring cameos as a lazy newscaster falling asleep on the job

-That as Zach and his crush have a heartfelt discussion, the two young actors randomly burst into phonetic Spanish, hamming up their scene complete with telenovela music

-A montage wherein Wagner’s henchmen (named, by the way, Hanky and Panky) chase the kids around their house in speed-motion, pausing occasionally to make wacky faces at the camera, read magazines, and make their nipples dance
-Spurs of meta as Ferguson’s villain shushes a young actor with “Watch the language kid! We want to stay away from PG13.”
-The big action packed finale is done via comic book cartoon, as if to save on budget or the fact that there’s no explanation for how two kids and a dog could best an entire army of well-trained goons

All of these touches are great, but what REALLY elevates Lenny the Wonder Dog to a higher plain of cinema is the utter insanity of Craig Ferguson. Known mostly for his late night talk show, Ferguson delves into the villainous role of a cruel scientist with the same vigor I use when tackling a plate of nachos. 

Only unlike Mr. Ferguson, I’m usually not doing so with a pompadour.

And generally, I don’t follow up a meal with an aerobics routine that lets me wear a headband, tank top, shorts, and knee socks. 

Only on special occasions.

To sum up: I adored Lenny the Wonder Dog. It’s erratic and inconsistent, but when writer/directors Oren Goldman and Stav Ozdoba casually go for weird, it’s rather wonderful. Even if it makes no sense.

Or perhaps BECAUSE it makes no sense.


High Points
The sheer oddness of Lenny the Wonder Dog makes it something truly special, particularly when you factor in a corporate brainwashing plot as hatched by an off-the-leash Ferguson 

Much like Ozzie, I have to tip my hat to a kids film that features a scooter chase wherein all four participants (young and old) responsibly wear helmets

Low Points
It pains me to say this, because I generally really like Andy Richter, but his lazy vocals as Lenny make Chevy Chase’s Karate Dog performance seem Oscar worthy by comparison

Lessons Learned
The proper punishment for putting an innocent man in a coma is being forced to return to your job at the post office

A flea is the price you pay for being cage free

As I have always suspected, German Shepherds do indeed speak with German accents

Standard Animals Doing Human Stuff Trope Tally
New Kid In Town: X
Recent Dead or Divorced Parent: X, although Zach’s parents’ random “we’re going on vacation and leaving you in the hands of your clown uncle” almost makes you wish the kid could stage some sort of accident and find more safety in foster care

Montage: Check PLUS!
New Friendship: Check
Potentially Inappropriate ‘Friendship’ Between Child & Unrelated Adult (Human): X. Nah, Ferguson is just kidnapping the town’s children so that he can experimentally brainwash them so they’ll grow up to work for his company. It’s evil, sure, but not inappropriate along the lines of SOME of the ADHS movies we’ve watched here 

Evil Corporate Enemy: Check and then some!
Original Song: Check, I think. See, a side plot of Lenny the Wonder Dog involves the town’s excitement at attending the “Angie” concert. Angie is some sort of Brittany Spears-esque poptart who does indeed get to perform (which allows us to see Craig Ferguson dance) and while I don’t know that the music was written specifically for this film, the fact that I’ve never again heard of this “Angie” character leads me to just give a check

Bully Comeuppance: Check, if henchmen count. I don’t know about you, but I’d WAY rather chase after annoying middle schoolers than have to deliver mail 
Small Town Values: Check. Observe the random appearances by the town mayor proclaiming the utter perfection of her hamlet, all despite the fact that a kidnapper has been abducting children by the handfuls
Back To Nature Moral: X. Nah, let’s let our dogs talk and use computer technology for a better life.

Overall Score: 6/10
But each of those 6 points should really be multiplied by a million

Lenny the Wonder Dog starts off fairly slow for the kind of did-they-mean-to-make-this? potential stoner comedy, but stick with its brief under-90 minute running time and you’ll find a batch of quirks that add up to something weirdly special. I can only hope the Bugg found nearly as much enjoyment in Hercules, but seeing as that movie didn’t star Craig Ferguson doing choreographed dancing to pop music, I already feel guilty.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Animals! More Doing Stuff!

We’re just a wonder and cop dog away from closing out Animals Doing Human Stuff Month here at the Dog—er, Doll’s House, but let’s make a puppy (& monkey) play date out of today for a quick three-stop field trip!

First, grab a handful of quarters to enter the Dollar Theater Massacre, where blogger Eric has found what might be the pick of the litter when it comes to Dogs Doing Human Stuff cinema: My Ghost Dog. 

Apparently, this movie has Nazis, violence to teen groins, a child who causes everyone he cares about to die, dated Michael Jordan references, and bullies paid back in a vat of acid. Now while Eric may not have been impressed (like Ghost Cat, it would seem My Ghost Dog needed more ghost dog), his review is hilarious and incredibly enticing. Thankfully, Eric spares me the drive to throw My Ghost Dog on the already packed queue because he kindly compiled a truly fantastic little clip reel that captures the film’s greatest--and they are GREAT--moments.

Quite possibly, the best 6 minutes of your life.

For those who need a little more of the monkey kingdom in their lives (i.e., everyone), Wayne Kotke, our favorite living impaired blogger, covered the 1978 documentary Koko: A Talking Gorilla. According to Wayne, this movie includes both gorillas wearing makeup AND nerdy scientists with Prince Valiant haircuts. 

I dare you to try and stop me from watching this.

While you’re there, be sure to skim through Wayne’s archives. You’ll never think of Ziggy quite the same way.

What’s that? You want MORE monkeys? Of course you do! That’s why the esteemed Thomas Duke of Cinema Gonzo is on hand with Spymate, a little straight-to-DVD film featuring pre-Screfourem’s Emma Roberts and more importantly, a superspy chimp. A superspy chimp that, if Sir Duke is to be believed, can wield a jet pack, skateboard, snowboard, AND has control of martial arts. Oh, and did we mention Pat THE KARATE DOG Morita has a small role?

And that it has a chimp using a jet pack. Seriously, what more could you possibly want?

Nothing that I can think of. I could die now and come back as a ghost dog tomorrow and feel satisfied with all the Animals Doing Human Stuff movies the world has been given by unexceptional directors, C-list actors, and in general, the nation of Canada. I strongly encourage you all to check out the three aforementioned gentlemen’s posts for some great laughs and even, aws. Because c’mon! Look at that:

And that:

And really, just...c’mon!